Significant improvements to customer engagement and conversions can be surprisingly easy to achieve, as Rip Curl’s chief digital marketer explains, through an email marketing strategy that can be applied more broadly.
Speaking at a recent event about email marketing hosted by platform Campaign Monitor, Rip Curl’s digital marketing manager, Sam Hopgood, noted that the company celebrated its 50th anniversary in April this year, but that it continues to evolve and adapt with technology and changing customer expectations.
“A lot of brands these days digitally try to drive traffic with an offer,” Mr Hopgood said.
However, he said that his business has identified other “quick wins” that don’t rely on price-cutting.
Those wins, Mr Hopgood explained, are focused around personalisation of EDMs and email. Aiding this process has been the segmentation of its customer base into tiers according to their level of engagement so that the messaging can be better tailored to them.
Open rates ‘almost double’, click-through rates surge
“We’ve... been segmenting for a fair period now, more so focusing on it over the last 18 to 24 months,” Mr Hopgood told My Business.
The biggest spike in conversions has come more recently, though, since Rip Curl engaged with a dedicated email marketing service to further segment its audience.
“With our customer database, there’s six tiers — based on most engaged to least engaged,” he explained.
“By splitting out this kind of active audience from those who are inactive in our database, we’ve been able to target users who are more likely to respond and engage with our emails.”
Mr Hopwood said that “by delivering a more consistent campaign message to those guys [who are highly engaged with us], and being respectful of the people who aren’t [very] engaged with us... we’ve seen increases in open rates over the last probably three to four months almost double”.
Meanwhile, click-through rates have surged in recent months by around 20 per cent on average, he said.
“So, just by focusing on those active users, we’ve seen a clear jump in open rate and click-through rate, which has ultimately affected our bottom line.”
According to Mr Hopgood, Rip Curl had been manually testing the waters with segmentation before turning to software provider Campaign Monitor, which he suggested had “overnight” changed and enhanced the retailer’s approach.
And the marketer said it wasn’t an onerous process to implement into the business in order to enjoy the benefits.
Win-back strategies when user engagement wanes
It is not just the direct bottom line increase from better targeting actively engaged customers that Rip Curl has witnessed from segmenting its database, Mr Hopwood suggested.
Another windfall has been the ability to better identify engagement trends, allowing the business to try and “win back” customers that might be drifting away.
Rather than cull these users from its database altogether, he explained the company has cut back on the frequency of emails for less engaged users to avoid overloading them and turning them off, but tweaking the messaging to encourage them back again.
“We can now talk to the consumer based on their engagement with the brand,” Mr Hopwood said.
“We can also refine how we talk to those users as well. We can implement win-back strategies when we see users fall into those unengaged categories; we can almost, if you like, dangle a bit of a carrot in terms of getting them back into the engaged area by offering possible free shipping or a gift with purchase.”
The tone of the emails sent to these users can also be altered to elicit a positive response, with Mr Hopwood suggesting either a sympathetic or understanding tone can encourage a customer back into the fold.
Using email insights to better target social media, advertising etc
While Mr Hopgood said that segmentation of its customer database began primarily in terms of its email marketing, the insights the business has garnered are increasingly being used to improve its other marketing efforts, including its social media presence.
“Probably in the last six to 12 months, we’ve really started to double down on using this data within our database... but also filtering that into social media, display advertising and stuff like that,” he said.
“We find now that as we move into the digital age, data is a huge windfall for us. Anything that we can use to personalise a user’s experience, we are going to use that data.”
What data is really useful to have on customers?
The most basic type of data to have on a customer is their name. And this alone can deliver a marked improvement in click-through rates from emails when utilised.
Mr Hopgood said that inserting a customer’s first name into the subject line of an email is an easy win for businesses, with Rip Curl seeing a spike of 10 to 15 per cent in open rates based on this alone.
“We have all these brand advocates in our database, we really need to use them,” he said.
Other important information can be more relevant depending on the business and the industry in which it operates, however.
For Rip Curl, as a surfing brand, geographic location is a particularly valuable insight to have, as it will determine the type of climate in which the customer lives and hence the type of products they will tend to favour.
“In terms of our sign-up process, our strategy is to get the kind of top-level information so that we can get them within our ecosystem: so that’s name, gender and postcode to a lesser extent,” he said.
“And then off the back of that, we set up an automated journey that welcomes them, a bit of an entry form, and then draws them to update their preferences.
“Off the back of those kind of detailed preferences, we look for what they’re interested in in terms of surfing, apparel, whether they’re interested in going to the snow — stuff like that.”
Mr Hopgood added that a customer’s purchase history also provides invaluable, and unique, data with which to tailor future messages.
“Anything that can kind of stand out within the inbox is really important these days, because there are a bucket load of emails that people sign up to these days,” he said.
“If we can say, ‘Hey, Mark’, or ‘Hey, Sam, your wetsuit is ready’, or ‘New products just for you, Mark’... we see huge wins from this kind of personalisation.”
Aren’t people getting sick of emails?
Virtually anyone with an email account in 2019 understands that the volume of emails we receive can be difficult to navigate.
Campaign Monitor’s Akerho Oghoghomeh — vice-president of marketing small to midsize enterprise brands — acknowledged that overall investment in email marketing has waned over time, but suggested that email is far from dead as a means for businesses to reach and engage with their customers.
He said that email tends to be both more trusted by consumers than social media, and also tends to deliver businesses a higher return on investment.
“The statistics that we’ve been able to gather and we’ve seen from other third-party entities demonstrate that email marketing has one of the highest returns on investment for businesses, because it is a lower-cost way to engage your customer,” Mr Oghoghomeh said.
Additionally, privacy scandals involving Facebook, for example, have put the issue of privacy front of mind for many consumers, he suggested. But sophisticated spam filters used by major email providers are also helping consumers to feel a sense that they are more protected when using email than clicking on items they see on social media.
“As an email marketer, if you get blocked by Gmail, that’s pretty much suicide,” he said.
Lessons from Red Bull
As an example of how email can be used as part of a business’s marketing strategy, Mr Oghoghomeh looked to energy drinks maker Red Bull, where he previously held a marketing role.
The company is famed for its events and promotions; however, he said that once these had passed, there was a noticeable lull in activity and engagement.
“We would spend millions of dollars doing brand awareness campaigns and hosting massive events and bringing in hundreds of thousands of people in some cases, and tens of thousands of people in other cases, to engage with us onsite at an event,” he recalled.
“One of the bigger gaps that I saw in our marketing mix was that once an event was over, it was basically over with that particular customer that we had engaged... we weren’t able to continue to engage with them”.
Mr Oghoghomeh said that Red Bull had done “so well” at turning this around, by using content generated at its events as part of follow-up email marketing campaigns.
He said the same is true of many businesses that use email as part of a multichannel approach to getting and staying connected with their customers.
“They’re reaching out additional touchpoints to drive engagement, to try and upsell.”
Advice for SMEs to get the marketing right
According to Mr Oghoghomeh, there are ways that SMEs can boost the effectiveness of emails they send to customers:
- Consider an email sign-up option for customers, so as to collect basic customer data. “You want to collect as much data as you can from people who are interested in your brand and product, as soon as possible.”
- Look at what types of data could be useful in the future, not just right now — including the frequency with which they prefer to be contacted.
- Deliver content that is genuinely relevant to your audience.
- Personalise content, particularly introductions and subject lines, to capture and hold people’s attention.
- Automate the process to make it scalable and time-efficient.
- Don’t get trigger-happy — “there is a point of diminishing returns”, he warned, and sending too many emails can be counterproductive.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.